Thursday, 24 November 2011

Summer Berries

We grew up in the country, literally a house on a hill, in a field, in the middle of nowhere. So going into town for anything, even grocery shopping was like a special treat.

I love berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, I could eat them all day every day.  Turns out my mother classified them as a luxury. Something that we couldn't have all the time. Maybe once or twice in the summer when they were in season, and not so expensive.

But without fail, we would go by the baskets of berries, and my eight year old eyes would light up.

"Mom, can we buy raspberries or blackberries, today?"

"No, they are too expensive."  She wouldn't even look up from whatever item she was examining.  For all she knew those berries were free. Or people were paying us to take them that day.  But the answer was always the same.

One day I asked why. It wasn't as if I were asking for chocolate (though, I did ask for that too). Berries were healthy.  They were part of the Fruits and Vegetables group.  They were good for you. And yet, the answer was always the same.

"One day, when you grow up and you have to buy food for a household, you will understand that we can't always have the luxury items.  You have to provide staple items for your family, and berries are just too expensive."

That didn't stop me from asking. Every time we went to the store. And every time the answer was the same.

Years later, after I left the Ex, and it was just me and my 2 year old daughter living on our own. I found out that times were tough.  I couldn't buy her everything she wanted at the store, I couldn't even buy her everything that I wanted to at the store.

I would use the no name shampoo and conditioner products, I would start setting aside money after her birthday in March so that I could get her something nice for Christmas.  It was never much, but we managed. We were never on social assistance, and I was proud of the fact that she didn't need anything.  Sure there were plenty of things we both wanted.  But it was hard.

We were grocery shopping one day, and we were in the produce section, and she looked up at me from the cart with her giant blue eyes, that seemed to sparkle.

"Mommy, can we buy raspberries or blackberries today?"

My mind immediately flashed back to the very same scenario when I was a little girl and the only thing I wanted was berries.

It was late fall, and the berries were most certainly not in season.  I could have bought two bags of apples and a box of oranges for the cost of a pint of raspberries that day.

I smiled at her, and I said, "Yes baby girl. We can buy both."

And I did.  And we got home, and we carefully put all the groceries away.  Then we sat down and we ate all the berries in one sitting.  I didn't care that we had ruined our dinner, or that we ate almost a third of the total grocery bill, in about twenty minutes.  All I saw was her beautiful little face, covered in berry juice.

Now every time I'm at the grocery store, it doesn't matter if she is with me or not. I hear my mother's voice in my head saying "One day when you get older, you will understand that you can't always have luxury items."

You're right Mom.  I can't always get the luxury items.  But I can't take my money with me when I die either.
And seeing her little face, covered in berry juice, and having to wash her berry fingerprints off the table, and the walls and the chair is worth more to me than saving those few dollars ever will.

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